The bigger questions


While the recently ousted Prime Minister of Pakistan staged a show of power at GT road on the way to his political base Lahore, the fallout from the Panama Papers affair continues unabated. Of particular interest to those doing the investigating are the tax records of Mr. Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, both of whom have been dodging and weaving in attempts to maintain the secrecy of their tax records. Why those records are of such interest is that during the period in question the incomes of both men far exceeded their known or declared sources of income. In the case of the finance minister, his assets increased 91-fold to Rs831 million between 2003 and 2008, but the records of his taxation for this period are missing from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) database.

The matter is before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and the law ministry, no less, is contending that tax information cannot be shared with a Senate panel. The panel chairman, Saleem Mandviwalla, argues that the legislation cited by the law minister is unconstitutional. It is noted that the FBR has previously refused to cooperate with the panel which was inquiring about the tampering with the tax records of the Sharif family and Mr. Dar before handing them over to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

Taking away the legal verbosity something smells like a barrel of rotting fish. Whatever the gymnastics of the legal teams defending Mr. Sharif and Mr. Dar, the Constitution has to be supreme and not just in this matter and special pleading is — or should be — no barrier to investigation whether it is into taxation or any other matter. Invocation of the culture of impunity that protects the high and mighty has to be broken. If that means challenging existing legislation that bolsters that culture then so be it. Over the years, lawmakers have sought to create a legal framework that protects their interests, pre-dating the Panama Papers. The nation is, courtesy of the Panama Papers leak, in a period of unparalleled examination of the affairs of those that rule and it is making them distinctly uncomfortable. We hope that discomfort continues far into the future.

Panama case has time and again proved be a game changer in the political landscape of Pakistan. It didn’t end with the outer of Mr. Nawaz Sharif and neither it should be thought so. This was only the tip of iceberg and It goes much deeper and wider ten it looks. Tax evasion is usually regarded as the biggest hindrance into the way of Pakistan reaching its full potential so it must be investigated properly so that the dark chapter in the history of Pakistan can be closed forever.

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Mian Bilal